Sitting at a late night café, pretending to sip a small cup of espresso, she let the memories of the night she had fled the château wash over her. The nightmare of seeing He Who Made Her had been too much, too terrifying. Despite all the help and kindness offered, she had vanished at sunset, fleeing both her past and her future. She had learned much since then, building on the lessons taught to her in her time with the older vampires. The only thing that kept her from returning now was shame, shame and that driving need to fill in the blanks in her memories.
Not all of them had returned, and some of those that did were harder than having no memory at all. She remembered laughing with friends in school, their matching uniforms all modified to an inch of school limits. She remembered beach vacations, and skiing, and teasing her stern-faced father. She remembered crying into the shoulder of her mother, and the way she always fixed all the world’s problems. Catching a fang on her lip, she tasted the blood in an act of self-soothing. She could not fix this problem.
She had discovered her old life almost by accident, stumbling across an old Missing Persons report while she was searching for some sign of He Who Made Her. Maricela Parisi. That was her name. Daughter of Eduardo Parisi, former ambassador to China, and Zhuang Cheok-Jin, the woman he had fallen in love with while he was there. Using an all-night internet café she had browsed through mountains of information on the couple, and herself. It was like looking at strangers. Intellectually she knew who they were, and who they were to her, but there was no real connection. Whomever she had been, that wasn’t who she was now. She had decided not to find them, to instead go elsewhere to conduct her search for the Castilian vampire who had turned her.
Gently placing the still full, though ice cold, demitasse on it’s saucer she rose, once more wrapping the gauzy silk scarf that hid her scars around her neck, and pulling the broad brimmed hat low. She looked like any number of tourists moving across Rue Crémieux, enjoying the beautiful sights and the cobblestone streets. She had not returned to France in two, maybe three years? Now her need for answers outweighed her shame. He Who Made Her taunted her in her dreams, showing her the atrocities he committed, demanding she return to him. She had kept fleeing until the dreams stopped, either he had been killed or she had managed to escape his mental reach.
She had met so many interesting vampires in her travels, finding them even when she was not looking. Dozens of names and faces. Luciens, Selenes, Eriks, and at least a dozen different Draculas. Some were dramatic and showy, and some surprisingly down to earth. She had been all over eastern and southern Asia, just experiencing what this unlife had to offer her. Despite how she came into the life, most vampires she met were more akin to Pavanne and Nicholas, and she had learned to accept what she was to a degree. She had mastered her beast, but there was still an aching emptiness within her, more painful than the Hunger that haunted her blood. Mariposa was lonely. Choosing not to seek out her former friends and family was the right choice, they were human and she was not, but it felt like closing the door on part of herself. A dozen times she had thought about returning to the château, of begging forgiveness, but she could not. She had called them family and then fled like a thief in the night, every bit the rabbit that she had been dubbed. Perhaps it was perverse, now that she knew her true name, to use the one that He Who Made Her had called her in her dreams, but Maricela was dead, and she had accepted that.
Moving through the crowds she picked her meal carefully, a coquettish tilt of her head and big brown bedroom eyes coaxing the man way from his companions and down a side street. She kissed him passionately, thanking him with her body for the sustenance he did not know he was about to give her, and when she kissed his neck, he barely felt the press of her teeth. She drank sparingly, for she had fed well the previous night on a murderer she had found evading the gendarmes. She preferred to dine lightly and more often, these days. Pulling away she felt the warmth of the blood flushing her cheeks, and she covered her mouth with one hand to hide the last traces of blood she licked away from her fangs.
Looking dazed, the tall man reached for her again, and she held him away with a single hand on his chest, his lust and blood loss preventing him from wondering at her strength. “I cannot, mi beddu, you overwhelm me and lead me astray.” She caught his gaze for a moment, her dark eyes mesmerizing as he looked crestfallen. “I have been too forward… but perhaps…?” She pressed another gentle kiss to his lips, and then fled, like any girl caught up in the romance of a foreign city night, allowing liberties beyond that she would normally consider. It was a kind charade, and she picked her victims carefully, and the parts of her that remembered the girl she had once been enjoyed the little play.
Opening her clutch she fixed her lipstick, and then pulled out the small business card she had acquired from a vampire in Chiang Mai, double checking the address. He said the woman was not kindred, but would be willing to help her track her problem, if he was even still out there. She moved quickly through the streets, finding herself at an unassuming door, and knocked three times. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end, and she quickly glanced over her shoulder. The feeling that she was being watched was suddenly very strong, and she narrowed her eyes, scanning the nearby shadows and rooftops.
The howl of a wolf sounded, and Mariposa froze, eyes still searching the darkness. Last time she checked, there were no wolves in Paris. Not the four-footed variety anyway. She had left Nicolas and his family before she had thought to ask if other night stalkers were real, and she had a sudden inkling that they were. The distinct sound of metal grating against itself was as loud to her as a warning gong, and so she was tensed and ready when the emaciated old man with the greying hair sprung out from the edge of the shadows, adorned with symbols of a religion she never believed.
“On your knees, demon!” His voice was hoarse and filled with a greed that wasn’t quite lust, but close. An oily covetousness that set the hair on the back of her neck on end. He drops the Bible in his hand to reveal a blade, the remains of some other death clinging to the edges. The smell coming from him was offensive to her senses, he smelled of death and old lusts and an endless abyss of need and darkness. She rolls her shoulders, sidestepping away from the door as she prepares to defend herself.
That was when someone new entered the fray. Wearing a dark leather jacket, hair shaved into a shocking pink mohawk, the man moved with a feral grace that reminded Mariposa of something, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. He looked like he had just wandered into a music shop or something, one hand tucked nonchalantly in his pocket, as he turned to wink at her. "Don't worry, darlin', he's just a bit off his rocker."
She wanted to protest, to warn the man that she could handle herself, when the dagger-toting lunatic lunged forward, whatever foul epithets he screamed lost to her ears as she focused on the way leather jacket moved. She was fast, had only improved over the past few years, but he was faster still. Even to her vision the edges of him blurred. The religious fanatic jerked forward, and the hot smell of freshly shed blood filled the air. It was unlike any other blood she had ever scented. Hot, alive, compelling. Her eyes fixed on the pink-haired man’s stomach, watching the crimson trickle like a panther stared at a limping antelope. She could feel the tips o her fangs digging into her lips, and she tore her gaze away. No. She was not that hunter anymore. This young man had offered her assistance when he didn’t have to, she wasn’t going to picture him as lunch in return.
Instead she circled around the old man, watching the unnatural way he moved, as if his limbs contained more strength than he quite knew how to cope with. He was focused on the younger man now, so she threw herself at his back, shoulder hitting shoulder as she slid an arm up to catch his neck. Hissing she pulled away, something on his skin burning when hers contacted it. Darting aside, she held her arm close, examining the strange burn mark, sniffing at it like the wild animal she claimed she no longer was. He was dangerous, full of tricks, and a low growl sounded in the back of her throat. She wanted to rip his jugular out with her teeth and bathe in his life’s blood, but he was dangerous. Dangerous food just got you killed.
Instead she circled back around to the other side of the man, watching the younger man who had interrupted the attack. How had he known that the grey-haired freak was going to be there? Had he been following the older man? Or had he been following her? She narrowed her eyes, suddenly suspicious. Perhaps it was too dangerous, this corner of Paris. She had wanted to be in and out of Paris fast, worried that staying too long would attract the attention of Pavanne and her famille.
She made a snap decision, it couldn’t be helped. The two men had caused too much ruckus this evening. Sparing a glance at the one who had tried to attack her, she memorized his face for later. He could not always come bearing crosses and rosaries, and when he appeared without them, she would be ready. The younger man she spared not a glance for, afraid to see the truth of what he was in his face. He was fast as kindred, but so much more alive than anyone she had ever encountered. He was a dangerous temptation, and she would not fall. Not now, when she was finally strong enough to stand up to He Who Made Her.
She turned her back on both men and fled down the alley, moving so fast that she was almost flying as she jumped over scattered refuse. At the end of the alley she vaulted over the high wall at the end, landing as light as eiderdown before making several quick corners as she raced into the night. Mariposa felt a twinge of guilt over leaving the young man when he was clearly injured, but she brushed it away. He was clearly more than human, so he could most likely face whatever the older man was going to dish out. A million escapes cycled through her brain. She couldn’t return to her hotel, one or both of them likely knew where she had been staying. Cursing under her breath, she headed towards the Panthéon. She had spent a few nights in the mausoleum there when she had first fled the château.
Of course, the Latin Quarter of Paris wasn’t exactly close by, but she was fast, and what might take a human nearly an hour to traverse would only take her a fraction of the time. She shot a glance behind her, making sure that she wasn’t being followed, and then turned around, heading down a small side street. From there she climbed to the rooftop of the closest building and looked out over the night. Though she had flown with Nicholas and Pavanne, she preferred to run, to feel the wind at her back and the ground at her feet, and had found that rooftop running was a glorious melding of the two. Crouching low, she took off, racing towards her morning rest, the men she had left behind all but forgotten in the exhilaration.
Deep in the Crypt below the Panthéon, the old dust twinkling around her like silent stars, Mariposa finally relaxed. When she was newly made vampire, the idea of corpses terrified her. Even the fresh bodies of those early victims, when she was still learning how to control her Hunger, had turned her stomach, made her afraid. Now? Now she felt calm among the dead. There was a stillness here that echoed within her own silent chest. Her heart beat no more than theirs, and that quiet calmed her frazzled nerves. As she walked the halls she let her fingers trail across the marble, communing with those that lived no more.
It was strange for one who had been as vibrantly alive as she had been before she was turned. This affinity for the dead was not from her sire, she had seen that much within him. This was something all her own, something from inside her. Perhaps his violence kept him from finding this calm, his perversions exacerbating a nature prone to feralness. She had been feral herself, there at the beginning. A mindless feeding creature. If not for Nicholas, she may have been out there now, stalking her prey unto death. She had left that behind her, though. It had taken her a few years to master her Hunger, but it no longer controlled her.
Finding a coffin that felt right, she settled in beside the bones of some forgotten martyr, feeling the false warmth of stolen blood leaching from her as the dawn approached. She kissed the malformed forehead of the skull, whispering a small gratitude in Mandarin, though it was unlikely the man he had once been would have known the language. She didn’t breathe, though she could feign it when trying to pass for human, but as the sun finally rose her lips parted, and it was as if something escaped through them just before her eyes closed and she went still for the day.
For the first time in months the dreams came to her, just before sunset. They started mundane, visions of those she had let go of when she had embraced her unlife. She never shied away from such visions, they gave her comfort when she was wracked by loneliness. Her parents had moved on, though not together. Divorced now, her mother seemed so wildly happy, her father, charming his way through a swath of young women barely older than she had been when she had been turned. The loss of a child could cripple some people, but they seemed to be moving on, and that made her glad. It helped her let go of the sunny-faced girl she had once been.
Then the dream turned, twisted, and she saw a room she had not seen in years. The breath she no longer needed caught in her throat, choking her with fear. The red-rimmed eyes of He Who Made Her searched the shadows, until, finally, they landed on her. It seemed like they bore directly into her soul, burning through her mind as he pinned her in place with his gaze alone. The Castilian vampire licked his lips, stepping closer as he finally released her eyes, raking that heated gaze up and down her form. “Finally, my childer, you return to me. I can feel you again, drawing ever closer. Come home to me, mi hermosa mariposa. Come sit at my feet where you belong.”
She struggled, trapped liked the butterfly he named her caught in the web of a spider. She couldn’t go to him, wouldn’t! Through her panic, the calm of the bones she lay with slowly penetrated, grounding her, reminding her of her purpose. She would go to him, but not to kneel at his feet. She was going to end his reign of cruelty. Desperately she glanced around, trying to figure out where he had made his den, attempting to blot out the visions of barely clothed female bodies scattered across the floor like broken toys, limbs at odd angles and blood pooling around them. The sun was down, though it being up would not stop him. She reached with her mind, touched the burning heat of him, and withdrew, as if she had touched the sun.
The flashes she had received from even that brief contact, terrible. His mind was a frightening place, full of dark and twisted desires. She was the one that got away, and he was intrigued by her resilience. She was the only one to ever rise, no matter how many necks bent and broke beneath him. An accident. Her entire state of being had been unplanned, unexpected. She saw that within him, and somehow that was better. Better to be something he could not control, could not predict. She had erred, though. Tried for too much. His bloody smile spread wider. “Paris? I have not been to Paris in some time. If you will not come to me, mi mariposa, I shall come to you.”
Suddenly he was the charming Castilian who had wooed her that night long ago, when she had been young and innocent. He had changed between heartbeats of the women dying around them. “No…” she whispered, horrified that he would come searching. She was a fool, she was not ready, inasmuch as she had thought she was. “NO!” The sound of her own voice catapulted her back into the world of unlife she now called her own. Sitting up, scattering the bones she had spent her day with haphazardly about her, she struggled against unseen hands. She needed out. Needed to be away. Seek safety. Go to ground. Even the calm of the mausoleum could not quiet her panic, and she fled, the scarf that usually covered the vicious scars left by her attack discarded in her desperation to flee.
She tore out of the Panthéon as if the very devils of hell pursued her. More than a few tourists, enjoying the night air, saw the strange young woman with the dark hair and bright eyes flee barefoot across the plaza. She did not notice the wolf that had been keeping watch, or even the curious humans who whispered amongst themselves. The scene she caused did not phase her, all she knew was she had to get to the edge of the City. To the trees. To safety.
She ran for an hour, never tiring, never slowing. What she failed to achieve in speed, she made up for in stamina. The curse of her blood holding her strong against the whipping of branches and the stones that tried to cut at her feet. Always in the back of her mind whispered the voice of the Castilian. Coaxing, crooning soft promises of the dark deeds that they could commit, she had his side, at his feet, kneeling as his childer was meant to do. The ghost of He Who Made Her spurred her on, forcing her to dig into the reserves of strength she held, forcing herself further, harder, faster.
Finally she found her way, blindly, to a familiar clearing. One that had offered shelter and comfort before, when she was lost and alone, with no where to turn. Collapsing to hands and knees, she took a deep, shuddering breath, even though she did not need the oxygen. She was still young enough that human behaviours soothed her mind and soul, if she had one, when she was facing distress. Tears of blood tracked down her cheeks, the crimson drops staining the dirt between her fingers. Angrily she dashed them away, smearing the stain along the back of one hand.
There had been a beautiful vampire whom she had spoken to in Rome, Selene she thought her name was? That lady had been convinced Mariposa could prevent He Who Made Her from entering her mind, but she had been too weak tonight. She had been told that she was young, but strong, and all she needed to do was marshal her strength and stubborn nature. It hadn’t worked, though, and she could almost feel the touch of his hands on her skin, remember the way he had caressed her arms. More tears fell, faster now, draining her of the vitae that she needed to live. Tears cost life, literally, amongst her brand of kindred. Still she couldn’t stop. She was frustrated, fearful, and she wanted the feel of his essence off her body.
Huddling into a small ball of miserable fledgling vampire, she wished that Nicholas would come and rescue her from herself once more, that it would be like that first night years ago. She wanted to feel Pavanne’s hand in her hair, stroking it and telling her that everything would be okay, speaking the language of her childhood. Instead she heard the harsh voice of LaCroix, calling her pathetic. A sparrow. A rabbit. Somehow it was his insults that penetrated her haze of self-pity. She was not what he had named her. She had been so much more, even as a neonate with no memory. Now? Now she knew who she had been, and despite this setback, she knew who she was. Didn’t she?
She sat up, swallowing her sobs and mentally giving herself a shake. She had stood her ground in front of a vampire as old and violent as LaCroix, what could He Who Made Her really do that was so much worse? Images flashed through her mind, naked flesh, silver edges, chains… Shuddering she squeezed her eyes shut and pushed the thoughts away. No. He was not even here, he could not bully her. She would not allow it. She would not permit her emotions to master her, not when she had spent so much time attempting to overcome her inherent humanity.
She had no blade, so she turned her wrist and sunk her teeth into the cold flesh, tearing a piece away and spitting it into the dirt. Vitae flowed, hot and powerful, coursing along the length of her arm. She closed her eyes, thinking back to the mausoleum, to the bones that she had lain amidst. She called the Coldness of the Grave around her, wrapped it like a protective blanket. Her mastery wasn’t perfect, and the woman that had taught her had not had the skill herself, but she dipped a long fingernail into the welling blood and wrote elegant kanji up her pale flesh. Originally the runes would have been Greek or Roman, but she had been assured that with her heritage, kanji would work just fine. It was about the ritual, not the details.
A chill entered her body wherever the ground touched her skin, starting at her knees, spreading slowly. With it came a calm, a certainty and emptiness that only the dead could master. The tears halted first, frustration fading in the wake of the dead coldness. Frustration was blown from her chest like so much chaff, until she was as emotional as any other corpse, the kind that could no longer walk about. She could not hold the detached state forever, but she could maintain it long enough to make headway towards an actual solution, rather than falling into despair. Only then did she sense that she was not alone.
Nostrils flaring she scented the wind. It was familiar, though she could not place the scent with a face. Someone she had barely encountered in passing? Someone from long ago? She could not be certain. Licking her injured arm she sealed the wound before rising to her feet, the very picture of a sated vamp more than twice her age, though when the spell faded she would be both ravenous and exhausted. Narrowing her eyes she scanned the treeline, trying to determine who her unseen observer might be. “Nicholas? Is that you? I did not mean to intrude.”
Even to her own ears her voice sounded cold, emotionless. The joy and apprehension she had once felt about perhaps encountering her old friends had gone just as surely as the frustration and horror of encountering He Who Made Her had. If it were Nicholas, she would simply make her apologies and continue on her way. If ti were someone else, though, someone who had come to interfere with her mission, or just with her in general, she would make them regret following a vampire into the woods late at night.
The wolf stepping out of the woods was almost enough to shock her spell into ending, but she maintained. She falls silent, watching the massive predator with the cold indifference granted by the consumption of her own vitae. They stare at each other, weighing one another, and then, slowly at first, but then faster, his body changes. Between the lowering and raising of her eyelids fur recedes and a human form is left where once sat a wolf, the brilliant pink mohawk so absurd in their current setting that she can feel the threads of the spell slipping from her fingers.
It had been a long time since she had seen a naked man. Since before she had turned, for certain. "Are you finished running, Baby Vamp? We have a lot to talk about, and if there's one Collector in Paris, there's probably more. I'd rather not have to fight a bunch of Holy Rollers in my birthday suit." He smiled, his green eyes the same as the wolf's before. "I don't want to hurt you. I'm not here to hurt you. I can help. If you'll let me."
His words washed over her, so much like Nicholas that night so long ago. Despite the fact that he was naked, here in the woods, knowing what she was, but offering to help her ... She felt the last of her hold on the spell fade, she had never quite mastered it anyway, and the wash of emotions hit her once more, staggering her, but she did her best to stand strong and face the barrage. Maybe standing in a clearing with a werewolf having a minor emotional breakdown wasn't the best choice to make at the moment, but it appeared to be the one she was making.
Once she got her emotions in check, she swallowed, cleared her throat, and took another moment to give the man a long look. "I'm not sure who you are, or why you are here, now, offering to help me..." She paused again, his words finally hitting. Collector in Paris, the smell... "You! You were the one in the city, with the strange yelling man..." Her eyes narrowed and she took a step back. He was fast. Maybe faster than her. Was she being as stupid as LaCroix had kept accusing her of being? Of course, he had thought her stupid because she kept challenging his right to give her orders. Arrogant cabrón.
Her mind was racing. Twice this wolf had interfered in her life tonight, but neither time had been malicious. He certainly seemed to know more about this world they both found themselves in than she did, but still... her mission was personal. Private. Besides, the general vibe she had gotten from the Kindred she had spoken to was that the killing of one's Sire, regardless of what kind of vampire he was, was Bad News and Generally Frowned Upon. She rubbed her forehead where the beginnings of a headache were starting to form.
"Thank you.... That... Man, whoever he was, was very unpleasant, and I am not sure I could have dealt with him in a fashion that ... my kind would have found acceptable. But... why did you keep following me? Why are you here, now? As kind as your offer of assistance is, I can assure you that it is quite unnecessary. I am more than capable of providing for myself, and now that I know what to look like in regards to these Collector folks, I can be far more careful."
She ran a hand through her long curls, trying to put on an air of grace and dignity, like Pavanne always seemed to wear. "Now, if you will pardon me, kind sir, the dawn always comes sooner than I expect it at this time of year, and I am afraid I have to find a new place to go to ground, a very dull and time-consuming endeavor I can assure you. It has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance..." She trailed off, not knowing his name, and not sure if she should give him her own.
That was, of course, when He Who Made Her made his presence known again. She felt his hunger first, his sick, perverse hunger twisting up through her guts and dropping her to her knees with the strength of it. She gasped with the shock, feeling lush carpet beneath her trembling form instead of the grass she had fallen into. Instinctively she wrapped her arms around herself, holding herself against whatever visions he would give her this time. It was one thing to have visions of He Who Made Her when she was asleep, but the waking dreams were so much worse.
Her hands reached forward, dug into the dirt, but what they felt was soft, young skin. Laughter, harsh and yet somehow seductive echoed in her ear. "Ven a mí, pequeña mariposa. Me perteneces. Every young life I take, I dream that she is you once more, back in my grasp where you belong. I was wrong to let you go, mi Mariposa. Together, together we will be glorious. I tire of this game. Every hour I am waking and you are not here, I shall tear some new young thing to pieces. Return to me, Mariposa. NOW."
He sounded so suave, so debonair, like the man who had seduced her that night she died. But the last word, it roared through her like a fire. Heat and pain flashed beneath her skin and she screamed, pain and fear folding her in half as she tried to drive his voice from her mind. She felt him retreat, his cold laughter like a film of despair and ill-intentions thick on her skin. It didn't matter that the man in the clearing was a wolf and she was Kindred, she reached out a hand to him, bloody tears tracking down her face. "Please..." her voice was a desperate whisper, "Please help me."
The wolf, though he is currently wearing human skin she knows in her heart that he is a wolf, reaches for her hands. There is a kindness in his eyes that she did not expect, though she was grateful for it. "Close your eyes. It's easier if you close your eyes." He pulls her in close, and she becomes suddenly deeply aware that he is not wearing any clothing. If her blood still flowed, she might have blushed, but she does not get a chance to say anything. Suddenly he is moving, and the trees turn into a smear of brown and green on the periphery of her vision.
They halt as suddenly as they started, and Mariposa tries to make sense of the distance they traveled as he dons a pile of discarded clothing. She starts to ask a question, but he silences her with a gesture, and holding her tight once more they are moving at that remarkable speed once more. She can go fast, it is part of her nature, but she has nothing on this wolf's ability to run. The world falls away, as if the very earth is easing his passage. It is breathtaking, and slightly less embarrassing now that he is dressed. The scent of his leather jacket is soothing, the dark jeans and t-shirt as suited to the man as the pink mohawk. He certainly wasn't what she thought a wolf would be like.
She isn't certain where he has taken her, though he seats himself, running fingers that she knew first hand were strong and calloused through his hair. "Sorry, it's been a long time since I've used that much power in that way. No, most of my kind can't run that fast. It's something that I can thank my father for." She hadn't asked, though the question had certainly passed through her mind. Did the wolves carry telepathy in their blood as well? Standing again, he stretched, baring a tantalizing sliver of midriff. She must not consider her rescuer as edible, it would be uncouth, besides, could vampires even drink wolf blood? Animal worked, though she had to agree with Pavanne that it was... lacking something.
"Please, have a seat Baby Vamp. Would you like some blood tea? Me, I'm going to enjoy a nice cup of lavender tea myself." Still silent, she watched with deep curiosity as he puttered about the space, actually going through the motions of making tea. It was so normal... and here she was with her cheeks stained from tears of blood. To say she was unsettled would be an understatement. Still, he kept up a steady stream of chatter, apparently unconcerned by her lack of response. "This is one of my homes. It's temporary. I guess I should tell you why I've taken such an interest in you, huh?" He chuckled, and the sound rolled over her. It was pleasant, with no hint of unkindness. In fact, the wolf might be the kindest creature she had ever encountered other than Nick.
"Truthfully, I was told to watch you. Word spread that you've been asking around about a singular vampire. Usually, when a Kindred hunts their Sire as you have, it means you're planning something drastic. See, I'm not here to lecture you about if killing your Sire is bad or not... what business is it of mine? I don't know your story. I do know, however, that if you're desperately hunting him this way and he's able to do what he did to you in the woods, that you're outmatched. I would also be suspicious about the Collector that came out into the middle of the street to grab you. There's been a few more of them out and about than I would like to see. I have a feeling there are more than the Council knows about."
He returned with a tray, walking over to a small table and setting it down. He slid a cup on a saucer her way and pointed to two darkly tinted teabags. "Blood tea. I'm not sure which blood type. It was made by a vampire friend, I assure you, it won't hurt you. According to him, it's quite delicious." He slowly stirred a dollop of honey into his cup, smiling at her. "I don't know how much you know about what's going on in the world, but you've stumbled into a bit of chaos. There is a new breed of Hunters that have emerged onto the scene. They are very good at what they do. Mostly, these Hunters are looking for the hides of weres, but I can only imagine what they would do to a vampire, like yourself. The Collectors, well, you've met one of them. And, now we get to your problem. What do you need help with, Baby Vamp? It's just you and me, and there are no secrets between friends, right?" He sipped his tea, and then chuckled again. "Friends should know each other's names, shouldn't they? Kieran Lykus, son of Benicio Lykus, and descendant of the Lykus bloodline from Romania. Now, please, tell me about yourself."
She shook her head, absorbing everything he had said while she absently lifted a teabag and dunked it into the steaming cup of water. The gesture was so familiar, an act she had completed a thousand times in her former life. It was like being with Mama again, the pleasant chatter filling the air, and for a moment she let herself drift. Shaking herself out of the moment of reverie, she wasn't sure which of his thousand questions she should answer first, or if maybe she should ask a few of her own instead. She had so many, and clearly he was comfortable enough with the world they lived in that he had some answers.
"My pardon, you spin my head with all this talk, but I will try to explain." Pushing her hair back from her face, the young vampire stared into her teacup, unwilling to make eye contact. "My name used to be Maricela Maifeng Parisi, though since ... the change I have gone by the name Mariposa. He Who Named Me called me that, and it took a long time to remember my life from before." Instinctively her fingers went to her neck, tracing the ugly scars that had formed there. "I wasn't supposed to survive and change, none of the others He embraced ever did. I woke alone, feral, and with no memory."
She grimaced, taking a sip of the tea, finding that Kieran was correct, and it was indeed rather pleasant. Nicer than the blood wine that she had with Nick when he had first taken her in. "When He Who Made Me discovered that I survived... he was able to reach into my dreams, waking or sleeping, and grant me visions of whatever he saw. He is a sick and twisted creature, and had not expected to spawn a childer. He wishes to draw me into his depravity, but I cannot." She was shaking enough that the cup clattered against the saucer, so she set both down, clasping her hands together tightly in her lap. "I also cannot live with the visions he sends me. They are too horrible, and they chip away at what little humanity I have been able to cling to."
When she raised her face, finally facing the wolf, her eyes were red with unshed tears. "I would rather cease walking within this unlife than continue being victim to his torment, but I have no wish to die. He stole me from my world when I was young and bright, but I do not want to be a monster either." She shook her head, dropping her gaze again. "Nick thinks there might be a cure, I think he is a fool. This is the life, such as it is, that I am stuck with, and I am willing to fight for it. To fight Him for it. The rest of it, the Covens and the politics and the pretensions of other Kindred do not interest me. All I want is to be able to live."
"Would you prefer to be called Maricela, Mariposa, or Baby Vamp?" The wolf winks at her like he thinks he has said something clever, but his smile sparks one of her own, though it likely didn't look half as friendly when paired with the bloody streaks down her cheeks from crying. Tears for blood made crying prettily impossible, and it seemed to stir something in the wolf. He was a mite overbearing, and way past over familiar, but he had been nothing but kind to her, and she had learned quickly that kindness in this world was both rare and fleeting.
She watches with caution as he pulls a bandanna from his pocket, wiping the tears from her cheek before offering the cloth to her. She was so startled, she just stared at it for a moment before slowly reaching out and taking it from his hand. When was the last time she had been touched so casually? Touched at all, really? Outside of feeding, she wandered alone these days. Perhaps not since Pavanne and Nicholas had anyone treated her so gently. It made her heart hurt. If only she hadn't fled from them like a coward. If only she had trusted them. They had taken her into their family, but LaCroix had been too much. She couldn't fight both him and He Who Made Her, so she had run away. She missed the casual kindness so deeply it hurt.
Meanwhile, the wolf swung back to their previous discussion. "There is no cure for your kind of vampirism... I'm sorry. There's only been one 'cure' for a single version of vampirism, and even that 'cure' was temporary. It would only hold for a few months before fading again." He seemed to be weighing something, his face more serious than she had seen it yet. It looked strange on him, made him look older somehow, despite the leather jacket and pink mo-hawk. "I don't think I can protect you here. I have a feeling since your connection is so strong, he'll be able to get to you if he chooses. How do you feel about taking a trip to Romania?"
The wolf was mad. That was the only explanation. She opened her mouth to speak, but he sloughed on. "Hear me out, my family still has a castle there, and I know I can keep you safe while we gather information. My father has an extensive library and access to any and all of your possible alchemical needs." He chuckled, waving a hand in the air before running his fingers through his mo-hawk.
"I haven't been home in a long time, but it's still home. It's safe, guarded, and plenty of blood. The castle has been an asylum for many vampires and wolves escaping people who wished them harm. At the very least, we can get him off of your trail and truly look into a way of breaking that connection. My Uncle Percival knows his way around magic. My sister is a powerful seer..." He paused, the look he gave her so sincere that she wanted to flee from it.
"I want to help you get away from this man. What I do, well, what I usually do, is hunt the wild beasts that are out of control. Vampires, wolves, mages, anyone and anything that threaten the reveal our existence to the world. I will help you hunt this man if you want me to. The Council wouldn't dare go against me. I'm a Lykus and I am their bounty hunter. If your Sire is this dangerous, he needs to be dealt with. Just tell me what you want and what you need."
She was overwhelmed. With his kindness, with his barrage of words. Since she had left Nicholas and Pavanne's home she had been a solitary creature, though she knew now that she was the opposite when alive. She wasn't sure how to deal with all he had to offer, or how to reply, so she lifted her tea cup, sipping slowly at the blood tea. It was such a strange, domestic situation, though the surreal nature of it all struck her as funny. So funny that she put the cup of tea down and let a chuckle escape her lips. The chuckle broke down into a full out laugh, and then the laugh got... maybe a little hysterical.
Here she was, the child of an ambassador, barely into her twenties even if you counted the years she had been dead, struck down with vampirism, plagued by nightmares, drinking tea infused with blood with a werewolf who looked like a gay version of a Billy Idol era biker boy movie star offering to sweep her away to the land of vampires to be aided by his magic werewolf family. It was ridiculous. Her whole life had become ridiculous. She covered her mouth with the handkerchief, turning away from the table as the laughter shook her body it came so strong.
It took her several long minutes to get herself back under control, if she had needed air to live she would have been breathless. Instead she simply wiped the red streaks from her cheeks, and then placed the bandanna neatly on the table, blushing as she stood, backing away from Kieran. She was embarrassed, something that was becoming uncomfortably common when she was near the wolf, and trying to think of a reason, an excuse, to get herself out of this situation before he decided she was a crazy person, if he hadn't done so already.
She shook her head, looking at the ground and covering her mouth with a hand, as if that would somehow hide her distress from the wolf who had watched her cry and hit nearly full blown hysterics in the past hour or so. Her father would have been ashamed by her lack of restraint, hellfire, she was ashamed by how little control she was demonstrating. Hadn't been half the reason she had run off to learn how to get a handle on her emotions and her... darker urges? If she couldn't keep herself in check, how on earth was she going to be able to face He Who Made Her?
"I apologize... Mister Lykus," there, that would put some needed distance and professionalism between them. This was too much, too soon, and all she wanted to do was run away and hide again. "You have been incredibly hospitable and nothing but kind and helpful, but I am afraid I am quite set on the path I am taking here. I have to return to the address where you first found me tomorrow, and then I am going to hunt down He Who Made Me and put an end to these nightmare visions in my head. I have weighed all my options, and the only true solution is his death. Perhaps I am not as strong as he is, but I am smart, and far saner than he has ever been, and I think that will give me enough of an upper hand to win."
She wasn't sure if she believed every word she was saying, or even half of them, but she was scared and overwhelmed and just wanted to run. To get away. To separate herself from the kindness being offered to her, a kindness she felt that she did not deserve. Best to extract herself before she got too attached, and then left him behind like she did to Nick and Pavanne.